Muddy Water


J.D. Pendry


Itís one of those discussions that concerns some so badly that they get little else done except for worrying about it.That is, whatís officerís business and whatís sergeantís business.Unfortunately, why they worry about it and debate it soldierís business is often overlooked.


Everything a leader does is soldierís business.It may not always seem like it to you in the middle of the night when youíre still trying to perfect your quarterly training briefing, but everything you do touches soldiers.It all points in their direction.Without them, no mission is accomplished.They are always the benefactors of our work, good and bad.So, from my perspective, there is no officerís or sergeantís business.There is only soldierís business.There are however, clear roles for officers and NCOs.Itís when we lose clarity of those roles that problems begin.


Many things once separated officers from enlisted. You could compose a comprehensive list if you took the time but, mostly youíd find that military culture, education, training and ones station in society to be the major categories.The other major separators are roles and responsibilities.Over time, these gaps have closed causing for some the loss of clarity in their roles.Blue collar intermingles with white collar and the sometimes result is a loss of clarity in roles and responsibilities and lack of attention paid to soldierís business.


Arguably, civilian and professional military education, were once the largest divide between officers and enlisted.The bottom line, officers had both and enlisted had little of either.Officers came to service with college degrees and further benefited from a professional military education system.Enlisted soldiers mostly did not come into the Army college educated and a professional military education system is a recent occurrence in the history of our Army (read Educating Noncommissioned Officers, By CSM Dan Elder, May 1999,


Time, has closed this gap.A noncommissioned officer, by todayís measurements, would have difficulty competing with peers for senior promotions without college education.The Noncommissioned Officerís Education System (NCOES) has been on par with that of officers since the first attendees started the capstone Sergeants Major Course in 1973.Other professional courses such as the First Sergeantís Course and Battle Staff have continued to reduce the size of the chasm between officer and NCO civilian education, professional military education, knowledge and skills.Has that been good for us?Undoubtedly it has.On the other hand, has it muddied the water somewhat?Has it caused some, officers and NCOs, to lose clarity of their roles?


Iíve worked with officers who tried to be better NCOs than their NCOs and Iíve worked with NCOs who tried to be better officers than their officers.Does that sound a bit odd to you?It should, but if you think about it for a while, I expect youíll come up with some examples and they wonít be too far from home.


There are a couple of issues to ponder here.NCO professional development and education, if it hasnít caught up already, is rapidly gaining on that of the officers.This causes some to offer arguments of pay parity for example.In other words, if I am as educated and have more actual experience shouldnít my pay be on par with the also educated, but less experienced officer?No, I donít think so.Close the gap some maybe, but at the end of the day one must remember roles and the responsibilities that come with those roles.The other issue is that officers and NCOs must use their education and skills to better fulfill their roles and clear the water often muddied by such debates.